With only hours warning, Bitmain released a new Blake 2b ASIC miner, the Antminer A3, early this morning. Those on Bitmain’s email marketing list received an email announcing the new miner and that it would go on sale in just hours. Within minutes all the A3’s available had sold out. The price was set at the equivalent of $2,735 but payment was only accepted in Bitcoin Cash. The only coin using the Blake 2b algorithm is SiaCoin (SC).

Bitmain Antminer A3

The Bitmain Antminer A3

Bitmain’s Antminer A3: First to market

Previously there was one other Blake 2b ASIC miner option. Developed by the creators of SiaCoin, the Obelisk SC1 boasted being the first Blake (2b) ASIC miner. While the SC1 can claim the first ASIC miner announced for the algorithm, it won’t be the first one in the hands of consumers. Preorders for the Obelisk SC1 were taken in the Summer of 2017 with shipping expected to be in June of this year. In contrast, Bitmain’s A3s are scheduled to ship 10 business days after receiving payment.

the fact that SiaCoin is the only cryptocurrency that can be mined with the A3 makes it a risky buy

Bitmain’s A3, Blake (2b) and SiaCoin

By today’s trading prices Bitmain’s Antminer A3 would mine over $500 a day after electricity costs. While impressive, profitability will fall as the unknown number of A3 miners come online, thus raising overall mining difficulty. This, combined with the fact that SiaCoin is the only cryptocurrency that can be mined with the A3 makes it a risky buy. But, the question circulating in the community is whether the A3 has more capabilities than advertised.

Bitmain A3 ASIC Announcement

Bitmain’s casual, last-minute email announcing the A3 ASIC miner.

While there have been no indications from Bitmain that the A3 can mine anything beyond Blake (2b) it seems highly unlikely that Bitmain would invest the millions of dollars required to develop an ASIC for a single cryptocurrency. That fact has lead speculation that the A3 may have the ability to mine other variants of the Blake algorithm.

Bitmain Antminer A3 Specifications

ManufacturerBitmain
ModelA3
ASICBM1720
AlgorithmBlake (2b)
CryptocurrenciesSiaCoin (SC)
Hash Rate815 GH/s
AC Power1275 W (220VAC Power @25℃)
DC Power1186 W (at 12V DC input)
Operation Temperature0-40 ℃
Noise76 dB
Dimensions321mm x 125mm x 208mm

Is the A3 better than the Obelisk?

In short, no. The Obelisk mines at the same rate, is significantly cheaper (current pre-order price is $1,599), comes with a power supply whereas the A3 does not, is at least 10 dB quieter, and consumes less than half the electricity of the A3. But, timing makes the A3 valuable. By the time miners have their Obelisks, Antminer A3 owners will likely have paid their A3 expense off several times over.

A big risk for A3 purchasers: Sia blocking Bitmain’s A3?

One thing that could stop Bitmain’s A3 in its tracks is Sia itself. According to a post on Reddit, in a Discord thread, taek, identified as Sia team member David Vorick by the poster, had mentioned taking action against hardware competition in the form of forking the coin leaving only their mining hardware applicable. The supposed Discord thread:

[11:42 PM] taek: Well, if they do anything stupid… we took precautions and put an extra feature on the Sia chip. We can soft-fork Sia to invalidate the bitmain hardware without invalidating the Sia chip we’re creating
[11:42 PM] taek: There’s no need as long as they don’t do anything stupid
[11:42 PM] Starbuckz8: I suspected you might have done that
[11:43 PM] taek: @Starbuckz8 and we’re going to do it for every coin we make chips for
[11:43 PM] taek: If some actor starts behaving poorly, we want the devs to have a knife they can pull out, so they can hardfork without losing 100% of the network hardware
[11:44 PM] taek: We did it for decred too
[11:44 PM] taek: And we’ll do it for Bitcoin, and we’ll do it for the alts we’re working on

The validity of the statement and the speaker should be taken with a grain of salt as it is a Reddit post, about a Discord conversation, and in both the parties involved are using aliases, not their real names.

We did get in on the A3 sale. Only time will tell whether it ends up being a great buy or an expensive paperweight.

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